Kettlebell Tips For Beginners – Don’t Do The Splits!
This should be the starting point of reference for anyone just now getting started. We’ve got so many Kettlebell tips for beginners here that you’ll probably want to return again and again. At least that’s the aim of the page.
I’m going to be basing my tips off a lot of the struggles and experiences that I had when just starting out. I want to point out that everyone will have a different fitness level when entering the world of Kettlebells, and will have different amounts of free time, so take my tips as examples and guidelines.
I’d love to hear any differing opinions you have, so that we can work together to make this page something really special.
Kettlebell Tips For Beginners – Step One – Kettlebell Purchase Tips
Choosing Your Weight
I did a LOT of research into this one and still probably ended up choosing the wrong weight when I started. It’s widely recommended that most men start out with a 35LB (16KG) Kettlebell. Us men are known for overestimating ourselves and choosing a weight too high, so the 35-pounder is considered a better, more conservative starting weight.
I did choose the 35LB, and that was still an overestimation. It really took me a couple of weeks before I could do more than basic moves, so the lesson here is to get to a gym that has Kettlebells, even if it’s just for one session, and see what you can do with them.
Pick out a weight that causes you difficulty, but not so much that you can’t lift the thing over your head.
– If you can’t extend your arm above your head with the Kettlebell in your hand (as if you’re pointing to the sky), then you might want a lower weight.
-Bear in mind that you WILL build strength quite quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be needing to increase to a higher weight to keep your strength growing. Therefore, you don’t want to be too conservative and choose one that’s too easy.
Best Kettlebell Weight For Women
Generally the best starting weight for women is 17-25LBs (8-12 KG). There are lots of confusing guides around that recommend the best weight depending on how active or athletic you are. I find the problem with these is that it’s pretty difficult for the average person to figure out where they are on that scale. Do you know how active or athletic you are? I still have no idea!
As with the men, your best bet is to head to a gym and give the Kettlebells a feel for yourself. Don’t be too conservative, because you’ll soon get used to the weight. Aim to buy one that feels like it is one or two KG too heavy, and just start out with some of the easier exercises.
To get a good idea of different Kettlebells and to view some of the best available, check out the Dragondoor store.
Beginner Kettlebell Exercises – Start Out Simple
I’ve seen so many places recommend a Kettlebell Swing as the starting exercise. Sorry, but the swing is difficult to get right if it’s your first time being exposed to Kettlebells. Form is 100% the most important part of working out, and it took me a good couple of sessions to learn the Swing without getting a sore lower back (the best sign of doing it wrong).
I’m going to propose an alternative set of starter exercises. You can pick and choose two or three for your first sessions.
Kettlebell Squats/Deadlifts (You will probably really struggle to tell the difference between the two)
Kettlebell Clean (You can use your other hand to assist you with this the first few times).
Once you’ve done a few sessions with these, you’ll find the Kettlebell easier to control and your muscles screaming with pain far less (especially your legs in the squats).
Now you’ll be ready to really start trying Swings and slightly more difficult workouts.
I recommend you try adding one or two of the following:
Kettlebell Swing (See below)
Kettlebell Carry (Suitcase, Rack, and Overhead positions)
I’ve seen all sorts of different tips on kettlebell swings, but for me, this video is hands down the best one.
Those should be enough to get you working out nicely and your strength and balance growing well. Once you’ve managed to get the hang of these, you can check out some of our other exercises. Don’t try to add too much variety too quickly, spend about a month on just these ones.
Note: If you’ve got access to a Kettlebell trainer who can really instruct you on your form, then Swings and other more complicated moves will probably be fine. I really don’t want you to get your form wrong and mess something up (your back, your coffee table..).
Kettlebell Safety Tips – Form
For a lot of exercises, it’s going to be more prudent of you to practice first without a weight in your hand(s). It’s going to be a lot easier to get the muscles and form correct, and that will transfer when you do finally pick up the weight.
I don’t want to say “practice in-front of a full length mirror”, because I know you’ll most likely be in your living room, not your bathroom. Still, if you DO have access to a mirror, use it.
If using YouTube videos, try to watch two or three versions of each exercise. Some people explain better than others, and some people have better form than others. Go for diversity and a second opinion.
Also, consider buying a Kettlebell DVD to get you started.
One thing about BAD form is that it’s going to let you know pretty quickly. You can actually identify what you’re doing wrong based on where it hurts. For example, if performing a Swing and your legs hurt, you’re doing it right. If your lower back hurts, you’re doing too much work in the early stages of the swing (see the video above).
Sometimes muscles are just going to ache because you’ve been working them out, but you should know the difference between a good ache and bad ache. If something hurts after doing just a few repetitions, stop it, double check your form, and try a different exercise. Come back to it later when the pain has gone (two or three days) and try again.
One thing a lot of beginners don’t pay attention to is grip. The irony is that a Kettlebell let’s you utilize so many different grips, it really is a great benefit. When watching videos or learning new exercises, ask yourself if you’re holding it correctly.
Sometimes you should hold the “ears” or outside part of the handle, other times you want your wrist almost inverted, palm up, palm out, Kettlebell upside-down. There are many different grips, and it’s easy to wonder why an exercise feels so wrong.
These are just going to happen. Some people fret and worry about them too much, but personally I got used to them fairly quickly. They weren’t painful or a hindrance to me.
The type of Kettlebell you use will determine the effect of calluses, as a normal cast iron one shouldn’t cause much grief, but a rubber gripped one might rub and be painful.
In the end, if you’re really worried about them or they cause too much discomfort, just invest in some decent gloves. There’s nothing really “taboo” or “amateur” about using gloves. Your hands, your rules.
– Never assume the author of a Kettlebell video on YouTube is really an expert. OK, so most of them ARE, but always watch one or two to make sure you aren’t getting bad advice.
– Warm-up and down well. I do 50-100 jumping jacks to get the blood flowing and arms and legs loose, then I stretch as well as I can. I’m sure you know how to do all this, just make sure you don’t forget. Choose the lighter/easier Kettlebell exercises in your repertoire to start and finish a routine as well.
– Take a few classes or invest in an instructional DVD to get started. You don’t have to spend a fortune. This is the DVD we recommend the most.
– Start out small and build yourself up. It’s all too easy to say “OK, I’m going to work out 5 times a week for 1 hour for the next 6 months”, but if you’re currently doing ZERO exercise per week, you’re just not going to be able to increase that much. It takes time to cultivate a habit.
Start out with 10 minutes per day for a week, then switch to longer sessions on alternative days, and see how it works out for you.
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